For years, fringe blogs have attempted to game their way to attention online by regurgitating the same ominous warning about “15 days of darkness,” falsely claiming that NASA had confirmed a “one-in-a-million” event, while moving the dates along for their own purposes.
The inspiration, if not the origin point of the hoax could be a similar “prediction” that circulated as part of the cycle of doomsaying around the “Mayan prophesy” that the world would end in December 2012. (Spoiler alert: it did not.)
Q: Is NASA predicting a “total blackout” of Earth on Dec. 23 to Dec. 25?
A: Absolutely not. Neither NASA nor any other scientific organization is predicting such a blackout. The false reports on this issue claim that some sort of “alignment of the Universe” will cause a blackout. There is no such alignment (see next question). Some versions of this rumor cite an emergency preparedness message from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. This is simply a message encouraging people to be prepared for emergencies, recorded as part of a wider government preparedness campaign. It never mentions a blackout.
Q: Could planets align in a way that impacts Earth?
A: There are no planetary alignments in the next few decades and even if these alignments were to occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible. One major alignment occurred in 1962, for example, and two others happened during 1982 and 2000. Each December the Earth and sun align with the approximate center of the Milky Way Galaxy but that is an annual event of no consequence.
Since then, different fabricated posts predicting “15 days of darkness” have resurfaced in 2015; 2016; twice in 2017; and as recently as 2023 in the form of TikTok videos. The basic text of the hoax carries over across every iteration:
Astronomers from NASA have indicated that the World will remain in complete darkness starting Sunday, November 15, 2016 at 3:00 am and will end on Monday, November 30, 2016 at 4:45 pm. According to officials, (the November blackout will be caused by an Astronomical event between Venus and Jupiter)
Charles Bolden, who was appointed to the head of NASA by President Obama, issued a 1000 page document explaining the event to the White House.
According to the report, Venus and Jupiter will engaged in a close parallelism, only being separated by 1 degree.
It cannot be stated enough — NASA has never made this kind of prediction. Bolden, who retired from NASA in 2017 after a career that included four NASA missions as an astronaut, never issued such a “document.”
However, a clue as to the true purpose of these stories may be found in the months and years that these stories appear and reappear — they seem to be clustered around elections, possibly making them yet another piece of disinformation used in the service of election interference.
Update 8/7/2023, 3:18 p.m.: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here. — ag